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Title: Buddhist Temple: the well-being space for the aged in Thailand
Authors: Kwanchit Sasiwongsaroj
Saowapa Pornsiripongse
Yongyuth Burasith
Patcharin Ketjamnong
Nutarat Koosakulrat
Mahidol University. Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia
Keywords: space;Buddhist temple;well-being;elderly;Thailand;Journal for Population and Social Studies;วารสารประชากรและสังคม
Issue Date: Jan-2012
Citation: Journal for Population and Social Studies. Vol.20, No.2 (2012), 2-19
Abstract: The world is experiencing an increase in the number of elderly people. This global trend is more advanced in western countries. However, many Asian countries are experiencing the same phenomenon, and within the next few decades, Asia will be the “oldest” region in the world. Adverse effects from a rapidly aging population on society and economy are evident; therefore, policy options are being created to deal with these problems. Nevertheless alternative solutions are still needed. As Asia is the region with the highest proportion of Buddhists in the world and Buddhist principles are embedded within belief systems of followers, the idea of using religious space to support the aging population might be worthy of consideration. This academic interest raises two questions: (1) beyond the use of temple space for preserving and spreading Buddhist teachings, do monastic institutions manage temple space for the benefit of elderly ?, and (2) how do such ancillary activities contribute to the well-being of the aged? This paper uses evidence from Thailand, a country with a large number of Buddhist temples (37,075), to explore these issues. The synthesis reveals that beyond religious activities, numerous secular activities are conducted at temples. These activities conform to the Buddhist worldview on aging and seem to actively promote the well-being of the aged in three dimensions; namely, physical and psychological health, lifelong learning, and social well-being. This article seeks to refocus attention away from governmental management of the elderly towards local management, in the belief that this would be particularly helpful in parts of Asia where institutional welfare is somewhat unreliable. As the temple is a component of the community and plays an important role in the cultural life of Buddhists, it is argued that using temple space can serve as an alternative approach to the development of appropriate policies aimed at enhancing the well-being of the aged in the Buddhist world.
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